Friday, July 26, 2013

Teen review: Adult books read by teens

A review by M.G. Lewis, ninth grade

Recently I came across a book entitled A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. It is the first in a saga of five books entitled "A Song of Ice and Fire." A Game of Thrones is a fantasy of approximately 600 pages; although I myself am in the ninth grade and read it, it is not a book I would recommend to younger audiences. There are several sexually and violently graphic scenes that may be disturbing to anyone under my own grade level. But when referring to level of difficulty, I would say it is between seventh and ninth grade.

Editor's note: As a librarian, I would definitely consider this a book (and series) written for adults. However, many teens are seeking it out, due to the popularity of the television show or simply because they like sagas and fantasy books, so we are publishing Mary Grace's review here; but her disclaimer about the sexually and violently graphic scenes should be noted!

Despite its plethora of pages, A Game of Thrones will seem like it passed by in an instant. Its smack-in-the-face plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat; and all characters (even, in some cases, the villains) seem realistic, human, and relatable. Although the entire book is written in third-person-narrative, each chapter switches perspective. Instead of a chapter being headed with "Chapter X," its title will be the name of the character whose perspective you are reading from. Wherein other books this may be confusing and unnecessary, Martin pulls this technique off nicely. The switching from character to character not only keeps you interested, it keeps you on the edge of your seat. For example, a chapter may end with a cliffhanger; and unlike another book where the cliffhanger is resolved in the next chapter, you may have to wait anywhere from two to six chapters to get back to the character who was "hanging on their cliff."

Although it is difficult to sum up all the characters’ stories, as some take place right next to each other, while others take place thousands of leagues apart, the book is essentially about a fantasy universe where kings and queens still reign. There are several sub-plots, but the main conflict in the story involves Eddard Stark, the right hand to the king, trying to find out why the previous right hand to the king was killed. The main family the reader encounters are called the Starks, who are the readers’ cliché "good guys." When reading the book, one gets inside the head of two of the Stark daughters, the Stark mother and father, and one of the Stark sons. The reader also gets inside the heads of characters that aren’t exactly the cliché "good guys." And example would be Tyrion Lannister, the member of a noble family, and brother to the Queen. One would think him a highly regarded individual; but on the contrary, he is born a dwarf, and is looked down on (no pun intended) by noble and common man alike. Tyrion is a controversial character in the sense that one does not know if he is a "good guy" or a "bad guy." He has several traits pointing to either cliché.

Overall, what makes the story most compelling is not knowing who will reign victorious in the end. There is no set hero or protagonist, and with perspectives changing every chapter, you never know if your favorite character will make it to the next book. I would give this book a 5/5 rating; when you combine this book with the rest in its series (all of which I have taken pleasure in reading) it puts other fantasy series to shame.

Another editor's note: I completely agree with Mary Grace about the enthralling nature of this series--I have read the whole thing and am waiting impatiently for the next book!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Teen Review: Classics

A review by M.G. Lewis,
ninth grade

One of my favorite books of all time would have to be The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, a fictional young adult novel about a teenage boy who essentially runs away from the boarding school in which he is enrolled. The book takes you through the adventures the protagonist experiences throughout his night in New York City (where his boarding school is.) At 214 pages, The Catcher in the Rye may seem like a simple read, and, to some degree, it is. The bitter, funny narration of the protagonist will keep you turning page after page; however, paragraphs can be up to a page long before they break, which is an ominous sight for anyone, much less a teenager. Due to this, being a ninth grader myself, I would put this book at a ninth grade reading level and above. I would also have to add that this book, though there is nothing horribly explicit, contains the frequent use of mild language, and one scene involving a woman in the "oldest business around."

The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, is essentially a fictional projection of every teenager. He is fed up and done, and not afraid to say so. His subtle hatred of every person who comes in his path, excluding his little sister, will not only make a teenager laugh, but it will make him or her sit back and think. I think every adolescent can find themselves a bit in Holden Caulfield, although some may more than others. Although his certain ‘voice’ may not appeal to others, it appealed to me, and I think most teenagers will feel the same.

This book stands alone with no sequels or prequels, but has the quality of 10 books packed into it. I would definitely recommend this to any young adult or adolescent, giving it an overall rating of 5/5.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Visit from Cornelia Funke!

We and the members of our book clubs were extremely fortunate last night to host Cornelia Funke, author of the books Reckless and Fearless. She is more widely known for her Inkheart books (well, and Dragon Rider, and The Thief Lord...) but her latest series, set in Mirrorworld, is definitely a project for more mature teens and adults who like dark fairy tales mixed up with adventure and romance! All three of our teen book clubs read both books over the summer, and Cornelia came to book-talk with us, to answer all our questions about the characters, the books, the series, reading, researching, writing...we had lots of questions, for which she had fascinating, detailed, and honest answers! Now we are all anxious to read the third book (which, alas, won't be out for about a year in the States!).

We originally got to know Cornelia when our teens voted to include a quote from Inkheart as part of the decor for our recently created Teen Scene at the Burbank Central Library and we wrote to ask permission to use it. And here she is, standing below her own quote!

Teen Review: Greek Gods

Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Books One
and Two:

Reviewed by Celeste M.,
11th grade

The Lighting Thief, by Rick Riordan, is about a 12-year-old boy named Percy Jackson. Percy has a ton of problems, such as having ADHD, dyslexia, being expelled (again), oh and being accused of stealing Zeus’s master lightning bolt. And yes, Zeus as in the leader of the Greek gods. In this book, Percy learns about Greek Mythology firsthand by battling monsters, facing gods, and traveling all across the country to clear his and his father’s names. This book has 375 pages full of electrifying adventure. The Lightning Thief appeals to my sense of exploration and history. I love how Riordan brought ancient Greece together with modern day America. I could absolutely relate to the characters. Even though I’m not 12 anymore, I still feel closely linked to Percy and his friends. I can always have so much fun imagining I am a character in the book. The first time I read The Lightning Thief, I was in 7th grade. I just reread the five-book series for the third time, and I am now in 11th grade. These books never fail to impress me! Rick Riordan is a very talented writer. He cleverly twists the plot of The Lightning Thief into something completely unexpected. Riordan does an excellent job of bringing out the emotion in his readers. I recommend all of his books to anyone looking for an exciting journey. Persons from grades 6-12 can enjoy his great works of fiction. Of course, the books are not limited to just teens--I even recommend this book to adults looking for a little mythology. I would rate the book as a 5: Hard to imagine a better book, because it happens to be part of my number one favorite series!

Editor's note: The library also offers the audiobook and the movie.

The Sea of Monsters is the stunning sequel to Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. In this novel Percy Jackson’s beloved Camp Half-Blood is in terrible danger of being attacked by ancient Greek monsters. Thalia’s pine tree, the magical border that protects the camp, has been poisoned! Together with Annabeth and a new “friend,” Percy must travel to the Sea of Monsters. Not only does he have to save Camp Half-Blood, but Percy must also save his best friend Grover! The Sea of Monsters is a fiction book and has 279 pages. It is the second of five books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I first read The Sea of Monsters when I was in 7th grade. I am in the 11th grade and I still love it! I recommend this book to grades 6-12. This sequel is as cleverly written as the first. As always, Riordan created an amazing plot. It never fails to surprise its readers. The book is a real page-turner. The way Riordan writes makes each character in the story seem real, and connects his readers to the characters. He describes the events of the story so well that I can easily imagine it as though I’m seeing it on a screen! One thing that makes this book so fantastic is the ending. I won’t tell you what it is, but I can assure you it is jaw-dropping! The cover is an accurate reflection of the story. By the end of the book, I could easily explain the artwork. I rate The Sea of Monsters as a 5: Hard to imagine a better book! I enjoyed this book so much that I read it three times!

Editor's note: The library also has this book as an audio.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Most Expressive Self Portraits, Other Winners

CONGRATULATIONS! to Viva, Patrick, and Arsh, whose artwork was voted the Most Expressive from all the Self Portrait entries.

And for the REST of you Self Portrait artists, we have a small token of our admiration--you can pick it up from Melissa's office any day this week except Tuesday (9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Our 6th and final reading log prize winners are: Mic F., Dylan R., Camille W., Anthony C., Alyssa P., and Katherine W.

Our third and final book review prize winners are: Sandi A., Lacy F., Hana G., Ossana A., Kaylenn G., and Grace S.

If you did NOT attend last Friday's Finale, here is what to do to get your prizes:

Patrick, come to Melissa's office;

Reading Log and Book Review winners, go as usual to the Reference Desk of the library where you were signed up for Summer Reading. Bring an I.D. (or a parent with one) so we give your prize to the right person!


We had 232 book reviews, written by 156 people, which was impressive! Some wrote one, some wrote a few, some wrote MANY. We would like to acknowledge the top writers:

Patrick C. (27), Grace S. (14), Mic F. (13),
Sarah C., Katrina D. and Jordan R. (11 each),
Nathan A. (10), Srujan D. and Megan W. (9),
Jordan N. (7), and Caleb V. (6)

Watch this blog to see more of your reviews published! And any of you who enjoyed the reviewing process, consider writing for our blog just for fun!

Teen Review: Realistic Fiction

A review by M.G. Lewis

Paper Towns is an award-winning young adult fictional novel by John Green. Its 305 pages are full of mystery, romance, and suspense. Just like the rest of Green’s works (all of which stand on their own, and are not part of a series), Paper Towns is written in an easy-flow, yet compelling way that makes it fun for mostly all age levels. However, due to relatively mild language and a mature theme, as a ninth grader, I would put this book at anywhere from a 7-12 grade reading level.

In Paper Towns, geeky high school protagonist Quentin or ‘Q’ has had a crush on thrilling, rule-breaking Margo Roth Spiegelman since the two were childhood friends and neighbors; however, by the time they are in high school Q has stayed geeky, while Margo has drifted towards the ‘popular crowd.’ When Margo brings Q back into her life for a night of outrageous prank-pulling on fellow classmates, Q thinks that things will be just the way it was when they were kids. Until Margo disappears.

Margo is known for running away and leaving obscure clues as to where she has gone, so Q and his friends set out on a journey to try to put Margo’s clues together and find her.

In this book, Q is a highly relatable, socially awkward teenager whose narration is both funny and intelligent. I personally could not put the book down, and was done with the thing in a matter of hours. This masterpiece will keep any reader turning pages and sitting on the edge of their seat. Overall, this is yet another Green novel that will stay with you for a long time after you turn the last page. I would give it a 5/5 rating, and definitely recommend it to anyone who loves books, mysteries, suspense, romance, or just having a good time.

Editor's note: If you, too, are a John Green fan(atic), I found this tumblr site with "epic quotes of John Green." You might enjoy it...